Re-connection

Tilly in the leaves

Oak leaves

I am going to ground for a few days in order to re-connect with nature and art, and to re-find my natural optimism and fighting spirit. I wrote about the process of doing so here, in a piece I posted last June.

I'll be back on Monday. Take care of yourselves.

Autumn leavesThe poem in the picture captions is from Wendell Berry's Standing by Words (Counterpoint, 2005); all rights reserved by the author.


I'm off...

Catskin by Arthur Rackham

I will be away from home for the next week, and then back to the studio on Monday, October 10. These are the words I'd like to leave you with, from an interview with Anthony Doerr:

Drawing by E.M. Taylor"Life is wonderful and strange...and it’s also absolutely mundane and tiresome. It’s hilarious and it’s deadening. It’s a big, screwed-up morass of beauty and change and fear and all our lives we oscillate between awe and tedium. I think stories are the place to explore that inherent weirdness; that movement from the fantastic to the prosaic that is life....

"What interests me -- and interests me totally -- is how we as living human beings can balance the brief, warm, intensely complicated fingersnap of our lives against the colossal, indifferent, and desolate scales of the universe. Earth is four-and-a-half billion years old. Rocks in your backyard are moving if you could only stand still enough to watch. You get hernias because, eons ago, you used to be a fish. So how in the world are we supposed to measure our lives -- which involve things like opening birthday cards, stepping on our kids’ LEGOs, and buying toilet paper at Safeway -- against the absolutely incomprehensible vastness of the universe? 

"How? We stare into the fire. We turn to friends, bartenders, lovers, priests, drug-dealers, painters, writers. Isn’t that why we seek each other out, why people go to churches and temples, why we read books? So that we can find out if life occasionally sets other people trembling, too?"

Indeed.

Rain cloudsThe quote by Anthony Doerr is from an interview in Wag's Review (Issue 8). The illustrations above are by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) and E.M. Taylor (1906-1964).


Myth & Moor update

Painting by Terri Windling

My apologies for missing the Monday Tunes post today. It's been a hard week or so around here -- not for me personally, I hasten to add, but for several people (and animals*) around me, all going through tough times large and small. When many different things require attention (work, family life, supporting my loved ones), I'm afraid it's this blog that must draw the short straw. I hope to be back again on Wednesday...and I'll post the music I'd planned for today next week.

Here is a thing I've been thinking about: The world is a troubled place right now, full of anger and divisiveness on the political Left and Right alike. This can trickle down from the cultural/political level to our personal relationships, if we're not careful. Both online and off, so many exchanges seem to be unusually and reflexively sharp right now. The world is hot, metaphorically speaking, and it seems to me like it needs cooling down. As artists, as wordsmiths, as people who walk the good earth, let's be part of that cooling. Let's talk, not shout; unite, not divide. Let's be still and silent sometimes, not just quick and reactive.

My mantra these days is: be gentle, be gentle, be gentle. Stand your ground, know your truth, but be kind.

Studio light* Tilly has another vet appointment for a persistent health problem tomorrow. It's not life-threatening, but has been troublesome and going on for a while. Please send her good thoughts for a positive outcome and full recovery.


Reading and resting

Georg Pauli

I'm afraid I'm out of the studio for another day or two. It's frustrating to find myself back in bed again, but it's only a stomach flu this time and will surely be over soon. Meanwhile, there are plenty of books to read, and the Faithful Hound cuddled beside me.

Woman Reading by Albert Moore

Reading by the Window by Charles James Lewis

"Reading is a co-production between writer and reader," says Ben Okri. "The simplicity of this tool is astounding. So little, yet out of it whole worlds, eras, characters, continents, people never encountered before, people you wouldn’t care to sit next to in a train, people that don’t exist, places you’ve never visited, enigmatic fates, all come to life in the mind, painted into existence by the reader’s creative powers. In this way the creativity of the writer calls up the creativity of the reader. Reading is never passive."

Charles Edward Perugini

Robert-Archibald Graafland

''Beware of the stories you read or tell," he warns; "subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.''

Carl Larsson

Leopold von Kalckreuth

The pictures today: reading and resting. Artists are identified in the picture captions.

Jessie Wilcox SmithThe quotes by Ben Okri are from his essay collection A Way of Being Free (Phoenix, 1998); all rights reserved by the author.


Off to see the sheep

Sheep

 No post today because we're off to Chagford Show, our village's annual agricultural fair, to look at sheep, cows, tractors and vegetables; watch horse trials and dog contests; and consume locally grown, baked, brewed or bottled things in the company of our rural neighbors. (These pictures are from last year's post on Chagford Show. To see more them, go here.)

On Friday, I'll be preparing for the "Power of Story" talk on Saturday night. I'll be back to Myth & Moor on Monday.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

The passing traffic at Chagford Show

Tilly & Howard at the old tractor dispay


Tilly in the woods

Many thanks to all who came to the Widdershins Meet the Artists evening at Green Hill Arts on Saturday night, as well as to all the artists who spoke so eloquently about their work there. The exhibition is still running, until August 27th, and I'll be at one more event associated with it: the Power of Story talk on August 20th. (Check out the Green Hill calendar for other events too.)

Tilly and I will be back to Myth & Moor this Wednesday. See you then!


Myth & Moor update

Nature studies by Beatrix Potter

Summer outside the studio windows

I'm off-line for the rest of the week, taking some "Studio Retreat" time in order to focus entirely on a work-in-progress. Tilly and I will be back next week.

Here's a round-up of recent reading recommendations to leave you with until then:

Sarah Lyall on Robert Macfarlane's "Landmarks" (The New York Times)

Claire Armitstead on Devon poet Alice Oswald (The Guardian)

Paul Kingsnorth on writing about the animate landscape (The Guardian)

Daniel A. Gross on silence (Nautilus), Rubin Naiman on sleep (Aeon), and Sara Lewis on fireflies (Aeon)

The hound lounging in the studio garden

Akilesh Ayyar on different ways of writing a novel (The Millions)

Ramona Ausubel on how to be a writer (Lit Hub)

Amanda Craig on the summer's best children's books (The New Statesman)

Anne Gracie interviews Eva Ibbotson (The Word Wenches)

Rob Maslen on "Children's Fantasy Literature: An Introduction" (The City of Lost Books)

Daydreaming

Cat sketch by Beatrix Potter

Charles Vess on illustrating "The Books of Earthsea" by Ursula Le Guin  (Tor.com)

Katherine Langrish on dwarfs, pixies, and the "Little Dark People" (Seven Miles of Steel Thistles)

Rosemary Hill on Beatrix Potter (London Review of Books)

Glynis Ridley on pioneer botanist Jeanne Baret (The Dangerous Women Project)

Hedgehog sketches by Beatrix Potter

Lily Gurton-Wachter on the literature of motherhood (Los Angeles Review of Books)

Lauren Elkin on female flâneurs  (The Guardian)

Jane Shilling on A.S. Byatt's Peacock & Vine, about William Morris & Mariano Fortuny (The New Statesman)

Kirsty Stonell Walker on Frida Kahlo & Elizabeth Siddal (The Kissed Mouth)

And here's a post of mine on why Internet breaks are important, as I prepare to spend time off-line.

Notebooks

Some recommended viewing:

Kevin Horan's glorious portraits of goats & sheep (The Washington Post)

Charles Fréger's portraits of the afterlife at Japanese folklore festivals (CoDesign)

Some recommended listening:

Syria's Secret Library (BBC Radio 4)

Robert Macfarlane on landscape & language (Radio New Zealand)

Reading ''When Women Rose Rooted'' by Sharon Blackie